Malaysians have felt the strain of traffic congestion more frequently in recent months and the situation might only get worse. For the first time in the country’s history, the number of vehicles in Malaysia has reportedly surpassed its human population.
According to road safety expert Professor Dr Kulanthayan K.C. Mani of Universiti Putra Malaysia, there were 33.3 million registered vehicles nationwide as of last year while the entire population only stood at 32.6 million, with that gap expected to increase if the trend continues yearly. Broken down, cars represented up to 47.3% of that figure while 46.6% were motorcycles, 4.7% were goods vehicles, and the rest were buses, taxis, and others.
As the country transitions to endemicity, traffic congestion has recently gotten worse than even in pre-pandemic times, seeing up to 74% higher congestion in the morning than regular levels. With that, Dr Kulanthayan opined that the high number of registered vehicles is a prime contributor to traffic jams in the country, with an annual increase of at least one million vehicles since 2019.
While he admitted that it was common for traffic to be congested during festivities and peak hours, the current situation has gone beyond the norm. “If this trend continues yearly where vehicles are rising to the tune of one million, then we are going to face even more horrendous traffic congestion,” warned the Professor.
He also attributed the increased number of cars on the road to people’s lack of confidence in the public transport system, which has had frequent breakdowns. One of his biggest recommendations is for industries to reintroduce a work-from-home policy for their employees on a rotational basis to reduce stress from unnecessary travelling and avoid further road congestion.
Because the policy worked during the height of the pandemic, Dr Kulanthayan saw no reason why employers could not implement it now. “If every employer decides on this way of work, we may just be able to reduce up to 20 per cent of traffic at any time,” lamented the academic, who is also the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety board of directors chairman.